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APMA President Discusses Canadian Automotive Manufacturing at CMTS

By Cameron Kerkau Associate Editor, SME Media

Canada’s automotive sector is united in addressing both its strengths and challenges, according to Flavio Volpe, president of the country’s Automotive Parts Manufacturers'​ Association (APMA), which represents domestic parts and equipment suppliers. In a keynote presentation on Wednesday during SME’s Canadian Manufacturing Technology Show (CMTS) at the Toronto Congress Centre, Volpe vowed to provide a “dynamic blueprint” for Canada's role in driving innovation and progress.

“How do you stay relevant? How do you convince people around the world that you should work with Canadian companies,” Volpe queried. The answer, he maintains, is for Canadian manufacturers to use domestic resources, including toolmakers and banks, as well as work with national and local government agencies.

“In Canada, the competing interest is the rest of the world,” he continued. “The reason why there are so many people here from so many different organizations (at CMTS) is that we all work together, because in all our names we always say ‘Canadian,’ because we don't have to say ‘Chevy.’ We don't say ‘Toyota’ and we don't say ‘Honda,’ we say Canadian. It's a little easier to wear the team colors when the team colors are the country you live in.”

Still, Volpe stressed the challenges of a national automotive sector without its own automaker, including how to get noticed on the world stage. APMA represents OEM producers for the global automotive industry in Canada, but Volpe admits when he began at the APMA, the association needed revitalization.

“I had just started at APMA, maybe a year and a half in (in 2015), and we had lost our mojo,” Volpe said. “What was the vision? What were we trying to sell?”

Volpe contrasted that period with earlier this week, when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau toured the CMTS floor and spoke with Volpe during the APMA 71st Annual Conference, co-located with CMTS. Toronto Mayor Olivia Chow and Ontario Premier Doug Ford also addressed the conference.

“I always thought the problem was we didn't know how to take time away from what we were doing to show people the value of what we were doing. Our customers knew the value, but regulators didn't know the value. People who write tax policy didn't know the value. People who negotiate trade agreements didn't know the value. People who try to win elections didn't know the value, (so) it's on us,” said Volpe.

According to Volpe, this started to change when APMA began interacting with media outlets, expressing the good news of the automotive industry, being vocal on international trade policies such as the NAFTA and collaborating on the first original, full-build, zero-emission concept vehicle named Project Arrow.

“We brought this car to the Toronto Auto Show in February. First time in 50 years of that show that a Canadian car, a non-OE car, was the feature car. Four-hundred assembled press as we unveiled the car,” said Volpe.

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